Monday, May 5, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Siege of Gondor (ROTK Ch. 4)

Sigh.  Nearly a week has gone by since my last chapter post.  I blame the recurring strep throat around here and the lovely weekend weather that had me out of doors for two days straight, playing in dirt and planting things.  I actually finished the chapter back on Thursday, but just haven't had time to post about it.  Sigh.

Anyway, isn't Denethor hideous?  That description of him at the beginning of this chapter is so perfect and awful:  "an old patient spider" (p. 788).  Blech.  It's amazing Boromir and Faramir turned out so well, with a creep like that for a dad.  Probably he neglected them a lot when they were kids.  Lucky them.

Should I quick mention how sweet it is that Pippin remembers liking Boromir "from the first, admiring the great man's lordly but kindly manner" (p. 792)?  Yes, it seems I should.  It's the fondest, nicest thing anyone says about Boromir, I think.

Gandalf continues to make me smile at odd moments.  When he's explaining things to Pippin again, for instance, and says, "But what?... Only one but will I allow tonight" (p. 796).  I need to remember that line and use it with my kids.

Plus, Gandalf gets one of the most chilling lines in the book.  He calls the Lord of the Nazgul "a spear of terror in the hand of Sauron" (p. 800).  Ooooh.  Isn't that brilliant?  Makes my hair stand on end even now as I flip through the chapter.

I'd forgotten that the outside of Minas Tirith was "like to the Tower of Orthanc, hard and dark and smooth" (p. 804).  Doggoned movies get into my head and replace the book descriptions sometimes.

Oh yes!  The word 'fey' crops up again.  This time it's describing Denethor.  Pippin tells Beregond that Denethor "is fey and dangerous" (p. 809), and that's more of the usage I'm used to -- doesn't it seem like Pippin is saying he's unbalanced?  Not functioning in the realm of reality anymore?

And is there any chapter in any book that ends so magnificently?  With Gandalf squaring off with the Lord of the Nazgul, telling him in effect that he Shall.  Not.  Pass.  The Black Rider laughs, Gandalf stands firm, and then... oh my goodness, I'm choking up as I re-read it.  I had tears rolling down my face when I read this ending last week, chills racing up and down me.  "Horns, horns, horns.  In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed.  Great horns of the North wildly blowing.  Rohan had come at last" (p. 811).  That's it, I am tearing in again.

Favorite Lines:

"Stir not the bitterness in the cup that I mixed for myself," said Denethor (p. 795).

"Comfort me not with wizards!" said Denethor (p. 805).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Gandalf describes Aragorn a "able to take his own counsel" (p. 797).  Hasn't Denethor been taking his own counsel?  What's the difference between the two?


  1. This is one of my favorite chapters in the book since it set the scene for the rest of what's going to happen in Gondor. Denethor is creepy in this story and he has completely lost his grip on reality. That's what sets him apart from Aragorn. Denethor makes decisions out of grief, revenge, or a desire to keep his role as Steward of Gondor. Aragorn is able to make wise, rational decisions without letting his personal feeling or issues interfere.

    And Pippin is so cute in the chapter! He always believed the best of everybody, including Boromir. And Boromir was always somewhat protective of Merry and Pippin.

    1. I agree -- Denethor says his main concern is protecting Gondor, but really it's about protecting himself and his line. It's not when Gondor is nearly overrun does he despair, but when he believes his line is ending because Faramir is nearly dead.

      Aragorn... Aragorn, on the other hand, is wise and wonderful.

      There's a scene in the extended version of FOTR where Boromir is teaching Merry and Pippin to use their swords, and they end up wrestling like a father with two little boys. I love it -- really brings to the fore the way the book says he was protective of "the little ones" and kind and gentle with them. I like to imagine that he would have been a much better father than Denethor :-)

    2. That scene is in the theatrical version too. :-D

    3. Really??? Well, now you know it's truly been so long since I watched the theatrical versions that I can't always remember what's new or not.

  2. Oh dear, these majestic battle chapters in Return of the King really have the ability to reduce one to tears, I've experienced it to!

    1. I have a friend who cries whenever the eagles arrive. For me, it's those horsemen. So powerful!

    2. I cry after the victory when the poem is recited: 'Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West' It's so impressive, almost like a Christian hymn (but then it's ofcourse symbolic of just that)

    3. Some of the poetry in this is wearisome, and some, like that one, is so amazing it's hard to believe they're written by the same person!

  3. This chapter really does have the most marvelous exciting ending with Rohan arriving. So thrilling! Particularly needed cuz this chapter seems sooooo long. Or that was just this reading, and it being spread over three different reading sessions, which is entirely possible.

    And soooo funny! When I read the "fey and dangerous" line about Denethor, I thought, see? Here's it's once again used the way I have always heard it, as Denethor seeing his own death. Particularly as described by Pippin who has just seen him go down to the tomb area and has heard him command for wood to burn, etc. He knows Denethor is now anticipating his own death. Hee!

    1. Too much Denethor can make any chapter feel interminable. Es ist der Fehler von Denethor.

      So now we have "fey" meaning two different things to two different people at the exact same time. Es ist der Fehler von Denethor.


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